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FDA Maharashtra considering dishes’ calorie content on restaurant menus
Friday, 25 May, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi, Mumbai
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra, in another first, plans to make it mandatory for restaurants all over the state to mention the calorie content of each dish on their menus.

It stated that this was being done so that the consumers could make informed choices, and a proposal in this regard had already been made to the government and a meeting with the stakeholders was also planned.

An FDA Maharashtra official said, “We are finalising the steps to successfully implement this initiative. A meeting with the concerned stakeholders is in line, and once we receive their views and suggestions, we will implement it.”

“We’re trying to convene the meeting before June 7, as FDA is planning to celebrate, for the first time, India Food Safety Day on June 7 in the presence of representatives from FSSAI and food safety officers (FSOs), and, if possible, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis,” he added.

The reason behind the move, according to the official, was that the public has now become very conscious of its calorie intake. But, when they are at a restaurant or even eating street food, they don’t know the calorie content of each item on the menu.

Therefore, FDA Maharashtra has adopted a top-down approach, starting with restaurants in the organised sector and later covering the street eateries.

“Covering small-scale vendors would be difficult initially, but once the plan is implemented and also when consumers are more aware, this issue can also be tackled easily,” the official stated.

Calling it as a great idea to make people aware of the calorie content of each dish on the menu, Dr Usha Kiran Sisodia, dietician, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Vile Parle, said, “This will help diabetics and those suffering from cardiac and renal ailments, as well as health-conscious people, to know what is on their plate.”

“It will reduce the illness caused by eating outside, and consumer can maintain their sugar levels as well as other blood parameters. In fact, eaters will make the best use of the information of the labels on dishes, as nowadays all are health-conscious and are increasingly becoming aware of this issue of calorie intake,” she added.

Dr Sisodia said, “I would like to add here that there is also a need to train the cooks. This step might also require the employment of dietitians and nutritionists, as restaurants may require an authentic person to guide on the calorie content knowledge.”

However, it seems the restaurants are still not aware of the step taken by the state FDA. Kamlesh Barot, past president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), informed, “ We have not come across any such directive.”

He added, “We hoteliers are well aware of the calorie content of our dishes. However, it may not be an exact amount. We are of the view that, unlike the multinational companies (MNCs), where food is made robotically with standard operating procedures (SOPs), precise weights and processes, mostly in a commissary, table d’hote (TDH) and a la carte (ALC) (fixed menus and individual order) food items are never made using weighing scales.”

“The chef may also not be in a position to determine how many calories they will eventually be asked to add to each dish that they are about to make as per the order of the guest, like a daal with or without tadka or tempering,” Barot said.

He added, “Besides every TDH or ALC order has a modifier required to skew the dish to the guest’s preference of spice or intolerance to specific ingredients. Hence, writing a figure on the menu will never be committal, at times running a risk of being termed as a fraud.”

“The Internet-savvy youth today are more conscious of what they want to consume. They are well aware of the calorie count of their preferred dish, making the exercise of writing the calories on the menu an orthodox one. This kind of an initiative has never succeeded in any other country either,” Barot said.

He added, “The organised players, who constitute 30 per cent of this industry will become the laughing stock, while the unorganised players will continue conducting business as usual.”

“When the organised sector is made the soft target with such arbitrary mandates, it just sets a wrong precedent for the entire industry. While considering such decisions, to take the viewpoint of stakeholders represented by a body like Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) or HRAWI, which represents 85 per cent of the industry, would be the ideal thing to do,” Barot said.

“If we are taken into confidence, like FHRAI, being an important member at FSSAI’s office in New Delhi, we can help the government come up with more constructive solutions,” he added.
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